“ I t’ink you have luck my friend ”
More than an expert at his craft, TB was a popular figure in Broome. A naturally generous man who gave back to the community. Equally at ease socialising with the towns working class and its social elite, he honoured his humble beginnings by providing opportunity and employment to Japanese and other migrants as well as indigenous Australians.
The “Southern Cross” and “Star of the West”,
two pearls of global repute skinned by TB
TB skinned several pearls of global repute including “The Southern Cross” and “Star of the West”. Many of the pearls that he transformed went on to travel the world, being worn by the fashion elite and royalty alike in Paris, London and New York. Today, the whereabouts of the ‘The Southern Cross’ pearl is uncertain, however it is rumoured to now be in the possession of the Vatican.
£400 — £4000
The full beauty of a natural pearl was often only revealed when the outer layers were removed, a dilemma for pearlers trying to obtain the highest price for their find. Bernard Bardwell was a pearl master with one such dilemma. He came to TB with a 90 grain pearl he had purchased for £400 and instructed him to remove the blemishes. With graceful skill and only having removed 4 grains, TB had uncovered a masterpiece that later sold for £4000.
JW Tilly, an ambitious young pearler, came to TB with a massive 264 grain pearl, the largest natural pearl ever found off the coast of Broome.
TB rolled the gem in his fingers, noting the blemishes and cautiously explaining to Tilly that he will end up with either everything or nothing. In true pioneering spirit Tilly ordered him to begin, so with pearl and file in hand, TB began peeling layer after layer from the super sized gem. Several hours later nothing but pearl dust remained. Left in its original state the pearl would have most certainly become famous and fetched a handsome fortune.